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Up to this time his course had been directed towards the priest-
hood, but sometime about his twenty-fourth year he underwent
a mysterious sudden conversion, the effect of which was to make
him a devoted Protestant and to turn his studies from the classics
to the Bible. Before he was twenty-six he published the first
edition of his great Institutes of the Christian Religion, and im-
mediately took his place as one of the foremost exponents of
Protestant doctrine. Two years later, in 1536, when fleeing from
persecution in his native France, he abandoned his private studies
to help to establish Protestantism in Geneva, and so found almost
by chance the career of his life. At the time of his arrival the new
faith had triumphed in the city. The whole community was
professedly Protestant, and nominally at least accepted the Bible
as the supreme authority in all matters of life and doctrine. But
both in State and Church there was still much confusion. Calvin
saw in this situation the possibility of a new political and religious
order in which the State would be governed in accordance with
Christian principles, and the Church as a self-governing body
would exercise full control in everything that pertained to religion
and morals. The rest of his life was spent in a strenuous
endeavour to realize this ideal.

From the beginning of his work he recognized the fundamental
importance of education as an instrument for the promotion of
religion in individual and social life. In the Articles on Church
government presented to the magistrates by Farel and himself in
1537, the year after his arrival, there were many references to the
training of the children in matters of religion. Not only were
the children to sing psalms for an hour a day in the school
so as to be able to lead the congregation in public worship, but
all of them were to be taught " a brief and easy outline of the
Christian faith " at home on which they were afterwards to be
catechized by the ministers. But though the religious side of
education was prominent in all Calvin's plans, he also saw the need
for a secular education. " Although we accord the first place
to the Word of God," he said in a prospectus of the elementary
schools written by him in conjunction with his old teacher,
Mathurin Cordier, who had come to Geneva to lend his aid in
school work, " we do not reject good training. The Word of God
is indeed the foundation of all learning, but the liberal arts are
aids to the full knowledge of the Word and not to be despised,"